1. Requirement for foreign employees to work
Immigration rules in Qatar are covered by Law No (4) of 2009 (Immigration Law) which sets out regulations under which expatriates may enter, exit, work and reside in Qatar. The Immigration Department of the Ministry of Interior is the main agency of administration. The Immigration Law defines an expatriate as any individual entering Qatar who is not a Qatari national. Unless an individual is a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) national, they must be sponsored by either a Qatari national, an entity registered to undertake business in Qatar or a resident family member on which the individual is dependent. This arrangement does not lend itself to short term or casual employment arrangements.
Currently the nationals of some 33 countries, including Britain, America, Australia and Japan, can enter Qatar on an on-arrival visa; other nationalities may enter and represent their companies or countries on business visas which must be applied for by individuals or entities authorised by the Immigration Department prior to arrival.
Only a holder of a valid work permit may work lawfully in Qatar. Work permits may only be applied for by an individual or entity registered with the employment authorities. These applicants are known as the worker’s sponsor. Sponsorship and immigration are interlinked in Qatar. Once a Qatari entity has been issued with an immigration card it may register with the Labour Department and submit block visa applications. A block visa application should state the gender, nationality and job title of the workers a Qatari entity wants to employ. Once the block visa application has been approved by the Labour Department, passport copies and appropriate education certificates should be submitted to the Immigration Department in order for each worker to be issued with his or her work permit; then the employer can proceed to apply for the worker’s residency once they have been relocated to Qatar at the expense of the worker’s sponsor. Dual residency is permitted by discretion in Qatar.
Where a worker holds a valid Qatari residence permit they can apply to sponsor their spouses and dependent family members at the discretion of the Immigration Department. The resident will have to demonstrate to the immigration authorities that they are appropriately employed with sufficient funds to do so, ie. currently only a manager or an individual with a degree certificate earning at least QAR10,000 per month (some USD2,700).
Holders of residence permits may work but ONLY for their sponsors. Contract working for other third parties is not permitted unless approved by the Immigration Department. Individuals holding family residencies do not automatically have the right to work and must apply for, and be issued with, work permits to work, subject to some exceptions, e.g. the QFC. Part time workers can work, subject to the permission of their sponsor/employer, for a Qatari national or an entity registered to undertake business in Qatar, but should not be compensated for the same.
It is important to note that there are laws and regulations in place to encourage the employment of nationals from time to time, known as Qatarisation. Specific sectors including banking may be subject to quota requirements to employ Qatari nationals and some organisations have self-imposed quotas, eg. Qatar Foundation, but otherwise the Labour Department will review new block visa applications on an application by application basis.
During the period in which individuals reside in Qatar the worker’s sponsor will be legally responsible for them, including obtaining and renewing residence permits and associated registrations.
The worker’s sponsor will not be liable financially for any of the obligations of the individuals it sponsors unless it specifically agrees to guarantee such obligations, eg. in a salary letter addressed to a bank for the purposes of a worker obtaining a car loan.
Strictly speaking only 100% Qatari owned entities and Qatari nationals holding valid manpower licences may undertake the business of recruitment for third parties.
5. Sponsorship Transfer
Residency may be transferred between sponsors, subject to the discretion of the Immigration Department. In order to transfer sponsorship an individual must hold a residence permit which has been valid for more than 12 months, a sponsor’s letter of no objection (NOC) and a “clean” Police Report. Where no NOC is provided (there is no obligation to provide and no right of provision) an individual may not work in Qatar, i.e. be sponsored and employed in Qatar, for a period of two years, although appeals can be made to the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Interior. Where individuals do not have a residence permit which has been valid for more than 12 months, provided they hold an NOC, they must leave Qatar and re-enter on either a visitor or business visa or a work permit in order for their new sponsors to be in a position to apply for a residence permit for them.